What in the world is “sitting disease”? If you’re wondering, you’re not alone. Because this term is fairly new, many people have never heard it before. It describes the fact that the act of sitting for too long can be dangerous and has as negative an impact as a disease. According to recent scientific studies, sitting for long periods of time is one of the most dangerous things someone can do.
Why? Here are the conclusions of some recent studies at the Mayo Clinic:
• People who sit for more than 11 hours a day are 40 percent more likely to die than those who sit for 4 hours a day or less.
• People with desk jobs have two times the rate of heart disease than those with active jobs.
• For every hour you spend sitting, you decrease your lifespan by two hours.
Isn’t this alarming? And you thought heart disease, the number one cause of death in the world, was caused by smoking or a fatty high sugar! It is true that smoking and an unhealthy diet can increase your risk for heart disease; however, Martha Grogan, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, points out that “for people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as someone who smokes.” It is something to carefully consider, isn’t it?
As Seventh-day Adventists, we pride ourselves on being vegetarians or not smoking. But do we take time to get up from our chairs during long meetings with the church board or the constituency or even during an all-day Sabbath program? Do we intentionally plan for walking or stretching breaks when we coordinate church-related programs? How about those of us who sit in an office all day?
During Bible times, church leaders (priests and prophets) would walk several miles a day or would minister while standing in the sanctuary. So did the early Adventist pioneers, who often walked and stood at meetings—and the wooden seats back then were not as comfortable as the ones we have today!
What about you? What are you doing to prevent “sitting disease”? If you are like the average church leader or elder, your risk for sitting disease is very high. But don’t despair! Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk:
• Whenever possible, take a 3-5-minute stretching break for every hour you are sitting at work or in a meeting.
• Learn some simple stretching exercises that can be done in an office setting (see www.AdventistsInStepforLife.org for a video showing short, five-minute desk/chair exercises).
• When planning for a meeting at church or in the office, allow time for walking breaks and encourage people to get up and move by leading them in a stretching activity.
• If you spend most of your day in front of the computer, consider investing in a standing desk at work or at home.
• Plan to hold “walking” meetings as often as you can. If you are visiting someone as an elder, suggest a walk in the park as you discuss the issues he or she cares about. Walking meetings can be very productive as you oxygenate the brain.
• If you’re on a plane, get up every hour and take a fiveminute walk whenever possible.
We have a mission to accomplish, and, in the words of Paul, God reminds us that “a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down [like disease or risk of early death] . . . and we must run with endurance the race that is ahead of us” (Heb. 12:1, NKJV). To run with endurance, Paul shared, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27, CEB).
By following these tips, you will not only reduce your risk for “sitting disease” and heart disease; you will also be more productive in your ministry for God.
Katia Reinert is director of the Health Ministries Department for the North American Division.